The Fox Theatre opens its 2015-16 season with the delightful, family friendly “Matilda The Musical!”
Based on the 1988 children’s book by Roald Dahl, the musical version of “Matilda” opened on the British stage in 2010. It was written by Dennis Kelly with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin and went on to earn much acclaim and several awards.
The show opens with a stage full of young children singing about how special they are. They know this because their parents told them. Somehow, Roald Dahl in 1988 got access to my current Facebook newsfeed.
Into this world is born Matilda (played in this touring company by Gabby Gutierrez, Mia Sinclair Jenness and Mabel Tyler; Tyler played the role the night I attended). Matilda’s parents do not see anything special about her. Mother (Cassie Silva) would rather be ballroom dancing while Father (Quinn Mattfeld) is busy working on get-rich-quick schemes.
They agree that Matilda would be better off if she’d watch more television and spend less time reading books.
Despite her genetic and upbringing, Matilda is a precocious, charming young girl. But if life at home is no good, school unfortunately is no better. You see, Matilda is enrolled at Crunchem Hall Elementary which is run by the wicked, wicked Miss Trunchbull (Bryce Ryness). I’m sorry, I should’ve said the wonderfully wicked, wicked Miss Trunchbull.
Matilda does have two adults in her corner: Her teacher, Miss Honey (Jennifer Blood); and the town librarian, Mrs. Phelps (Ora Jones). Mrs. Phelps engages Matilda’s imagination by listening to her stories while Miss Honey is determined to help Matilda grow in spite of all the obstacles in her way.
“Matilda the Musical!” is a cute show with a heat-warming story and a number of catchy tunes. My personal favorite was Act Two opener “Telly,” but there were plenty of other songs equally amusing or touching.
The show also boasts a talented cast of young singers and dancers in addition to some gifted actors in the adult roles. I can’t speak to the other Matildas but Mabel Tyler did a fine job. But then, stealing the show was Bryce Ryness as the evil school headmistress. Every scene with Ryness was golden. Quinn Mattfeld also had some notably funny moments as Matilda’s father.
This is based on a children’s novel, so be prepared for what kids find entertaining. Like what had to be musical theater’s longest and loudest burp. I can live with that, considering the alternative.
Finally, I appreciated this show because of its message: that children are nothing but trouble and books are evil and we should all watch more television.
My wife thinks I misunderstood the message but what does she know? She’s a bookworm.
“Matilda The Musical” runs through Nov. 1 at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis. http://www.fabulousfox.com/